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Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma has showcased his filmmaking talents in diverse films ranging from thrillers such as Sisters, Obsession, Dressed to Kill, Body Double and Snake Eyes, to the blockbuster action film Mission: Impossible, the acclaimed police dramas Scarface, The Untouchables and Carlito's Way to the unique visions in Carrie and Phantom of the Paradise. De Palma, a director without limits on his range, has also directed war films, comedies and science fiction.

Born in Newark, New Jersey on September 11, 1940, De Palma grew up in Philadelphia where his father was an orthopedic surgeon. Early on, De Palma became fascinated by physics and went to Columbia College to study the subject. He soon changed paths and began studying first theater, then cinema. In 1960, he made his first mid-length feature, Icarus, followed by 6601224, The Story of an IBM Card and Wotan's Wake, for which he received several awards.

De Palma undertook his first full-length feature, The Wedding Party, while studying at Sarah Lawrence College. The Wedding Party, a semi-improvised comedy, would be Robert De Niro's and Jill Clayburgh's film debuts. After this first film, De Palma went on to do several documentaries and short films, including The Responsive Eye, and put on an exposition of Op Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In 1967, he made his second full-length feature, Murder à la Mod, a sophisticated thriller packed with Hitchcockian references. The anti-establishment fever of the sixties led him to make the satirical comedies Greetings (Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival) and Hi Mom, which lifted him into the ranks of young American filmmakers.

The big Hollywood studios began paying attention to De Palma, but it was his modest independent production Sisters, which brought his first big success. Breaking away from the semi-improvisational style of his previous films, he made apparent that his talent for writing, his sense of construction, his framing and rhythm were worthy of the best Hollywood directors.

Two years after his success, De Palma made the musical thriller Phantom of the Paradise which came away with the Grand Prize from the 1975 Avoriaz Film Festival. In 1976, he (with Paul Schrader) wrote and directed Obsession, a romantic thriller starring Cliff Robertson and Genevieve Bujold, followed by Carrie, which triumphed worldwide and earned Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie Oscar nominations. The film, which also featured Nancy Allen, John Travolta and Amy Irving, remains one of the most brilliant adaptations of a Stephen King novel. Its famous last scene, as well as others, has been widely imitated over the years.

In 1977, De Palma directed Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes and Amy Irving in The Fury, a spy film that combined the occult with political fiction. In 1978, he made Home Movies, a semi-autobiographical comedy starring Kirk Douglas and Nancy Allen, with the assistance of fellow film students from Sarah Lawrence. In 1980, De Palma returned to suspense with Dressed to Kill, starring Michael Caine, Nancy Allen and Angie Dickinson, then went on to write and direct Blow Out, which explored two of his major themes: voyeurism and politics.

In 1982, Brian De Palma directed a baroque, hyper-violent remake of Scarface from an Oliver Stone screenplay, starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. In 1984, he made Body Double, which gave Melanie Griffith her breakthrough role. Leaving behind the film genre which had made him famous, Brian went on to direct The Untouchables, a huge spectacular saga about prohibition which earned its star, Sean Connery, an Oscar, and launched the careers of Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia. In 1989, Brian directed Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn in the war film Casualties of War and in 1990, he adapted Tom Wolfe's satirical novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, which starred Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith and Bruce Willis.

In 1992, De Palma returned to thrillers with Raising Cain, which starred John Lithgow and Lolita Davidovich, as well as directing Al Pacino in Carlito's Way. In 1996, he brought together Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Emmanuelle Beart and Jean Reno in Mission: Impossible, a tribute to the cult television series. Mission: Impossible became an enormous international success and was followed by Snake Eyes, starring Nicolas Cage and Gary Sinise, as well as his first science fiction film, Mission to Mars, which starred Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle and Connie Nelson.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Brian De Palma Facts

Birth NameBrian Russell De Palma
OccupationDirector, Screenwriter
BirthdaySeptember 11, 1940 (83)
BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, USA
Height5' 11" (1m80)  How tall is Brian De Palma compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Mission: Impossible
Carlito's Way
Mission To Mars
Bonfire of the Vanities
Dressed to Kill
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